There were flames, exploding cakes, jaw-dropping performances and plenty of cocktails when the New Zealand Fringe Festival launched its 20th birthday programme last night.
The launch of the Fringe 2010 programme was the feature of the evening, showcasing 80 shows that span the genres of comedy, theatre, music, dance and visual arts – with a new category to house those that refuse to be boxed: WTF? (What the Fringe?)
The event was attended by MPs, councillors, government officials, doyens of the arts and culture scene and the participants of Fringe 2010. Wellington deputy mayor Ray Ahipene-Mercer joined New Zealand dance legend Deirdre Tarrant (who has had a Fringe show every single year since it started) in blowing out the giant candles on a giant cake – that then exploded with stunning burlesque dancer Vaune Mason inside.
The programme is now available online at www.fringe.co.nz which also features the ability for users to personalise their own programme schedule, and a printed programme hits the streets of Wellington from Friday morning available from cafes, libraries, brochure stands and very cool shops.
Fringe 2010 begins February 12 and concludes March 6 with the Fringe Awards and the infamous closing night party at the Paramount Theatre.
But to even make it this far is a victory for the Fringe Arts Trust, which manages the festival. A drop in sponsorship dollars because of the recession caused the Fringe to seriously reconsider whether they could hold the festival this year.
"Not only has Fringe survived but we've gone bigger and better," said festival producer Zelda Edwards. "There's nothing like a rocky time to take stock and we realised just how essential this festival is to New Zealand arts and culture so we decided that we'd put the damn thing on or die trying.
"This year there are more participants from overseas and all over New Zealand and we've got some interesting new initiatives to make this festival the best ever."
On opening day February 12, there will be the first annual Running of the Fringe. Think Pamplona's Running of the Bulls, but with brightly costumed and noisy Fringe participants running down Wellington's Cuba St to launch the new Fringe HQ, a dinky 50s caravan adorned with Fringe art on the corner of Cuba and Manners Mall.